Flamingo Land’s latest plans for Loch Lomondside plus an artist’s impression of what Station Square in Balloch might look like and Gordon Gibb, millionaire boss of Flamingo Land.
By Bill Heaney
A public meeting will take place tonight in Balloch to discuss the controversial proposals by Flamingo Land and Scottish Enterprise for 56-acres of the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.
Flamingo Land and Scottish Enterprise want planning permission from the Park Authority for a “tourism led recreational, residential, food and drink development on land at West Riverside and Woodbank House, Balloch.
West Dunbartonshire Council have no authority in this matter and are simply consultees who have been asked to give their views to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority – if the application is not called in by the Scottish Government.
The West Riverside site, which includes Drumkinnon Bay and part of the old British Silk Dyeing Company factory site, is owned by Scottish Enterprise.
The Council’s position is that the land there has been promoted as a recreational and tourism opportunity since the early 2000s. Woodbank House is in the sole ownership of Flamingo Land Limited.
The latest planning application was received on 25 May 2018 by Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority.
The Council, a statutory consultee as neighbouring Planning Authority to the proposed development site, were consulted on the application and sought additional information in August 2018 to allow a thorough assessment of it, according to a report by Peter Hessett, their chief legal adviser.
Amendments have since been made to the application and further information provided [by Flamingo Land].
Following this, the Council were formally consulted by the Park Authority again on 17th April 2019.
It is important to state that the application is made in principle and seeks to establish the acceptability of the potential new uses of the site only, and does not include details of buildings and infrastructure, which would be determined at a later stage.
The artist’s impressions which have been shown to some members of the public are simply impressions and the development may hold no resemblance to them when the final application is made.
When councillors were briefed on proposals, issues were raised about the nature and the impact of the development on the local area in terms of economic benefits, traffic, parking facilities, access and planning procedural issues.
The main issues on the agenda were what Flamingo Land were proposing: Refurbished tourist information building; 60-bedroom Apart-hotel; 32-bedspace budget accommodation; Up to 125 self-catering lodges comprised as follows: • 15 woodland bothies (in grounds of Woodbank House); • 16 woodland lodges (in grounds of Woodbank House); • 19 larger lodges (in grounds of Woodbank House); • 32 lodges in Drumkinnon Wood; • 43 lodges at West Riverside; Up to 6 private houses; Up to 15 apartments within Woodbank House; Up to 6 apartments within the refurbished outbuildings of Woodbank house; 900m² brewery; A boathouse of c.95m² for storage of equipment and operation of water based activities; Leisure / pool /water park area up to approximately 2,500m²; Restaurants/Cafe and Retail areas up to 1,100m² in total; Visitor reception areas & hub building up to approximately 2,000m; External activity areas including tree top walk, events/ performance areas, children’s play areas, monorail, forest adventure rides, picnic / play areas; Staff and service area of up to approximately 900m; Associated parking (up to 291 additional spaces), landscaping and infrastructure development works; and Access to be taken from the surrounding road network including Ben Lomond Way and Pier Road.
The Council’s recommended response to the consultation, which may or may not be approved on Wednesday, “welcomes the investment in the local area which has the potential to make a major contribution to the viability of the visitor economy in Balloch by expanding the range of facilities both for visitors and local residents.
“New opportunities for employment will be created for Balloch and the wider Vale of Leven area. The planned works and the additional facilities to Station Square of restaurants, cafes, a brewery and outside performing space will provide a focal point for Balloch which will reach out to Balloch and the wider area.
“The proposed improvements to the riverside walkway, the national cycle and path networks and increased connectivity between Lomond Shores and Balloch are important additions which will also bring benefits to the wider community.
“It is recognised that the development places an emphasis on sustainable modes of transport. The proposed monorail between Station Square and Pier head enhances the connectivity between Balloch and Lomond Shores and discussions are underway with Scotrail/Abellio to improve the rail service.
“It is however accepted that the development will largely be car based and will have an impact on the local road network. The Roads Service in their consultation response has no objections to the development being proposed. They have indicated that the traffic movement at peak times and the network capacity with the additional trips from the development have been fully assessed.
“The Transport Assessment submitted by the applicant has been independently assessed by consultants for the Roads Service. This independent roads assessment is evidence based and found to be acceptable.
“However, it is widely known that the summer season, good weather weekends and local events can increase traffic significantly on the A82, A811 and the local roads, all to the detriment of the local area.
“While mitigation measures will be implemented such as an Access and Parking Strategy and an enhanced Signage and Variable Message Signage on key approaches, there are still concerns about how this development will impact on the A82, A811 and local roads during peak summer and weekend times from a wider area perspective.
“It is considered that this development could exacerbate existing road conditions and concerns are expressed that the impact of this development has not been full assessed at peak times such as good weather weekends and during the summer months to determine the associated amenity and environmental effects on the wider area.
Mr Hessett’s report ends by saying: “The development aligns with the Council’s strategic priorities of improving economic growth and employability.”
Tonight’s meeting, organised by the Save Loch Lomond campaign opposing the development, starts at 7pm in the White Church (Alexandria North Parish Church).
The speakers will include Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP for Dumbarton and Lomond; Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration on the Council, and Ross Greer, a Green Party MSP, who claims that a petition against the Flamingo Land proposals has attracted more than 55,000 signatures.